Category Archives: Olympics

You can’t always be what you want–but that’s okay

To paraphrase a Stones’ favorite, you can’t always be what you want.  I’m sorry but the imagesidea that one can be anything one wants if one just tries hard enough is just no true or realistic.  Perhaps we need to rethink this.

I love figure skating.  I watched the nationals all last weekend.  One of the skaters said, “Everyone should figure skate,” and that reminded me why I don’t.  Why, no matter how hard I try, I’ll never, ever be a figure skaters.

imagesA friend and I took lessons when we were young, back when Kansas City still had an ice rink.  My friend did very well, being promoted week after week to higher level classes, learning to twirl and do elementary jumps.  Meanwhile, I didn’t.  I continued to slog around the ice and I couldn’t figure out why I was stuck in the beginners class.  I followed directions.  I did everything the instructor said.  I worked hard in the hope of being able to fly over the ice in a graceful position but never looked like the picture on the left.

Many years later, I discovered my problem, why I was doomed to remain forever in the beginners class:  I have terrible joints.  My ankles were so weak I couldn’t straighten them.  They bent inward which made me more of an on-your-ankles skater instead than a figure skater.  Actually, I skated both on my ankles and on the edges of the blades, lumbering along, trying so hard to do better and never succeeding.  No, never.

And this is why I know that, no matter how hard I try, I’ll never be a figure skater. Not even with the best coach in the world, I won’t.

There are people who tell children, “You can be whatever you want to be if you try hard enough.”  Well, no, they can’t and it’s mean to tell anyone such a completely ridiculous and untrue statement.  No mater how hard I try, I’ll never be a figure skater unless the federation puts in a new category to fit my style of skating.  And I’ll never represent my country in any sport in an international athletic  competition.  Those of you who know me recognize the truth in those words.

Some other realities: 1) No matter how hard she tried, a woman hasn’t been able to imagesbecome president. Shirley Chisholm can attest to that.

2) Until 2008, no matter how hard a black man tried, he couldn’t be elected president either.

3)  No matter how hard I try, I will never be abble to tell the difference between the word “shutter” and “shudder” without checking the dictionary.  Nor can I tell the difference b and a  d  when I’m spelling even though all my teachers told me if I tried hard, I could do that.  I am dyslexic.  Some things are mentally impossible for me.

My point is that people do not succeed in every effort and need to know that’s not the endimagesof the world. Kids, especially, need to understand this.  I awakened to this new truth many years ago after reading a magazine article.  The thesis of the article was that a spider could not make a lemon meringue pie no matter how hard that spider tried.

I am not espousing the opposite point of view that no matter how much you try, you’re going to fail. That’s really depressing.

Could we come to a middle point?  Perhaps “If you want something, work hard because you’re not going to get it if you don’t try but you many not succeed and that’s okay.”  Long and unwieldy, I know.  Maybe you could help me phrase this in a jazzier, more interesting way.

imagesAnd maybe we can stop filling children’s heads with the thought a thin boy’s going to be a heavy-weight boxer if he tries hard enough or a girl will play center for the Louisville Cardinal’s men’s basketball team.  There are other goals, good goals.  Any thoughts on this?  I’d love to hear them.

Why No One Will Ever Confuse Me with Gracie Gold

ice skatesWhen I was six years old, my best friend Linda and I enrolled in figuring skating lessons.  We arrived at the rink for our first lesson, pulled on our new skates, tied the laces, and hit the ice.   We went every Saturday morning for months and about every two weeks, Linda was promoted to higher class and I never left the beginners.  I’d tried so hard.  I followed instructions, I practiced, I pushed myself but never, never moved up to the next level.  I had no idea why not, not until years later when my mother said she always felt terrible for me as I trudged around the ice–but not only on the sharp blades but also on my ankles.  I had–and still have–very weak ankles that couldn’t support me on ice skates.  I skated on two blades and the outsides of my skates.    No way I was going to go up a class when I was “ankling” as much as I was “skating.”

I wish someone had explained it to me.   I wish someone had told me the keep clam and tell the truthtruth.  I wish the instructor had said, ‘Monica Jane, this is probably not the sport for you.”  Or that four-year-old who was quickly moved from beginners had said to me, “Why do you skate funny?”  Or my mother had suggested I not return and given the reason.  I imagine no one wanted to hurt my feelings, but, really, never improving didn’t hurt?

Do you have something you wish some had told you about?  Please share.  It makes me feel so much better.

Me and the Olympics (or, for the grammarphobic like me: The Olympics and I)

The first time I had to accept the fact I was growing–oh, no!– older was when I realized  I’d never represent my country in the Olympics.   Not that I have any athletic skills that would have even allowed me to participate snowy mountainin a competition even at the lowest level, but the realization it would never happen hit hard.   Well, not really.  It was one of those moments that reminded me I was no longer eighteen.   In honor of the upcoming Winter Olympics, I thought I’d discuss my brief career as a skier.

In high school, I went on a ski trip to Estes Park.   We stayed in a cheap ski resort which didn’t have chair lifts.  Instead, the lift was like a small garbage-can lid that one put between one’s legs and this–for many of the skier–towed one up to the top of the trail.  Not for me.  This was not friendly to a novice skier who’d had two hours of lessons, then was expected to, more or less, ski uphill.   Every time–every single time–I lost control of the skis, unable to keep them straight in the ruts worn in the snow  And every single time, I fell off the garbage-can lid half way up awk skierthe hill with only one choice:  to walk sideways in those skis I couldn’t control, across the snow and through the trees until I reached the trail.  I’d ski down the trail and start the trek all over.

As frustrating as this was, my best friend had an even worse time.  She stood at the lift station, put the garbage-can lid between her leg.  When the lift pulled her, her skis flew into the air and she fell off on her head after about six inches.   I can’t remember now if she ever got to the top of the hill.

Next week:  how my bad ankles doomed my figure skating career.


Soccer or badminton: you have a choice

When the Olympics began, I had every event taped which pretty much cut down on watching anything else.  When I culled the huge number of hours I’d saved, I looked at the description of each.  If the information described a sport I didn’t have much interest in, I erased it without even viewing.  I mean, so many events, so little time! 

Then I discovered most of the information about what was on at a specific time was wrong.  I’d erased events I wanted to see because, instead of women’s soccer they were labeled badminton  Please, all you fans of badminton, I apologize for insulting your favorite sport.  We used to play it all the time in our backyard but we looked nothing like those who play it on an Olympic level.  However, it is not an exciting sport to watch.  The only exciting part was that eight players were kicked out for cheating and did it so badly that the spectators booed them.   But, due to the incorrect information, I had hours of that and little of the first soccer games.

This mislabeling turn me to a more philosophical frame of mind:  the way we expect certain behavior or talents or attitudes  by the way we label people.  We often don’t give them a chance because of how we’ve labeled them.   One of the most  exciting part of the Olympics to me was watching women from countries that had never sent a woman to the Olympic compete.   None of them moved up so some might say this proved nothing other than they couldn’t compete.  To me, the important and exciting part was that those countries allowed them to be there.  The same is true of women’s boxing.  I truly have difficulty with women hitting other women, especially now that we know so much about brain damage, but if men are allowed to inflict injury on each other, don’t the athletes deserve that choice? 

What’s your opinion about labeling?  And what’s your favorite sport?  Did you get to watch as much of it as you wanted?

I’m hooked but only every couple of years

If you aren’t a sports fan, please forgive my blogs about the Olympics.  For those of us who love nearly anything that has running or swimming or throwing, this is like a feast with every form of chocolate spread out in front of us for two weeks. 

So, because I consider myself an expert having watched at least 1000 hours of coverage, here are a few observations.

First,  I LOVE the British commentators.  Anything they say sounds profound or terribly witty.  Two examples: 

During the second half of a close soccer game, the announcer said, “The Americas would rather fancy another goal or two.”

During another soccer game when  a lot of tripping and shoving had started:  “It’s getting a little chippy out there.”

Next observation and a question.  When the amazing American women gymnasts were performing during the team final, one of the announcers (an American not a Brit) said, “When you’re in the presence of greatness, recognize it.”  I reacted negatively.  Although I do admire anyone who works hard to achieve, I’m not sure only being able to fly off a vault constitutes “greatness”.

I’d really like your opinions before it starts getting a little chippy here.

Too many choices: A quandary of Olympic proportions

I love the Olympics.  All together in one place for two marvelous weeks are my favorite sports–basketball, gymnastics, swimming, diving, track—as well as some I’ve never heard of and never foresaw that I’d watch.   For example,  I’ve watched the finals of women’s ten-meter air rifle.  The first gold medal of the games went to China.  I also watched table tennis because the US had a sixteen-year-old playing. 

The problem?  Because there’s so much on,  I have far too many decisions to make.   On Saturday morning, the first full day of coverage, the US women played basketball.  Fifteen minutes later, the coverage of the US women’s soccer began.    I watched soccer because I can do other stuff when soccer’s on.  Sorry to offend any soccer fans, but they will show the soccer goals over and over whereas basketball goes really fast.

My husband says I would win the gold medal for TiVo-ing if there were one.  I’m saving every minute of every event scheduled.  Last week, to warm-up for the Olympics I erased 100 previously saved programs.  The disk is now  75% empty and only 34 programs are still saved.   They had to be great ones to survive the cut.  

Every morning and evening, I study the upcoming events and decide which ones to record and which not to.  George is unhappy with me because I didn’t save the beach volleyball with Brazil playing.  I figure if he wants to watch gorgeous women in bikinis rolling in the sand, he can save that himself.

Do you watch the Olympics?  If so, what are your favorite events?  Do you record everything?